ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Feb 26 2015

Three Hungarian NGOs are seeking answers from the state health authority after it decided against granting over-the-counter access to a morning-after pill out of concern for women's health. The Hungarian Women's Lobby, PATENT Association, ASTRA member, and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union have sent an open letter to the State Secretariat for Healthcare, questioning its determination that making the ellaOne morning-after pill available without a prescription would harm women. Although the European Medicines Agency and the European Commission have voiced their support for making the ellaOne pill available without prescription, the recent announcement by the Hungarian Ministry of Human Resources makes clear that the pill will remain a prescription-only medicine due to concerns related to "patient safety."

EllaOne is a morning-after pill that may be effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies for up to 120 hours (5 days) after intercourse. It is important to point out, however, that best results occur when it is taken within the first 24 hours. Understandably, effectiveness is best ensured by making the pill readily available. The patient safety hazard referenced in the ministerial communiqué was refuted in the course of the European licensing procedure as a necessary step for approval. The pill was licensed by the EU in 2009 and can be safely used without a prescription, with its benefits and risks having been widely publicized since it came to market. It is worth considering how to best ensure women's health, safety and the promotion of their potential future pregnancy: by an emergency pill taken in a timely manner, or, in its absence or as a consequence of its delayed effect, by the artificial termination of an unwanted pregnancy?

Finally, the NGOs remind the government of a 2013 recommendation by the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women that Hungary "ensure appropriate accessibility to family planning services and affordable contraceptive methods, including emergency contraceptive products, for all women [...] and eliminate the prescription-only accessibility of emergency contraceptives."

The three organizations condemn the decision of the Hungarian government. The pill can be accessed without a prescription in 22 of 28 EU member states. Following the recommendation of the Commission, even Poland, which has very strict abortion laws, announced that it would remove the need for prescription. It seems Hungary is again swimming against the current, and putting the safety and health of Hungarian women at risk.


Feb 25 2015

The Federation for Women and Family Planning submitted its written statement for the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women which will take place in New York on March 9-20. Access the statement HERE.

Feb 25 2015

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was signed by Poland in December 2012. Since then there have been attempts to adopt an Act to ratify the Convention. For 2 years it could not have been done in the parliament due to the strong opposition movement. Recently after a long time the Convention first left the joint parliamentary committees that for a long time were blocking the approval for it to be read at the general debate. On February 5th the MPs from the committees decided that it should be further proceeded in the plenary. On the 6th of February the parliament decided that all the amendments proposed at the stage of committees’ work have to be rejected and decided to adopt the Act on ratification in the first reading. Still in requires the signature by the President who, to a huge disappointment continues having doubts about its accordance with the Constitution. That might result in sending the Act to the Constitutional Court which would delay the ratification by at least several months.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

Read more here:

Feb 24 2015

Less than 300 days away lies the finish line of the Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs) - what was in fact the first global antipoverty strategy in human history. The MDGs no matter their shortcomings brought substantial relief to those living in extreme poverty and acknowledged some of the importance of women’s rights and gender equality in advancing humanity to a road of less destitution. 

For the following 15 years, the UN as well as governments across the world aim to commit once again to end poverty and hunger in every place on earth. The task at hand is even more complicated as the MDGs experience has taught governments, activists and other stakeholders that poverty happens everywhere in the world and that its causes are not only numerous but also interlinked in an endless chain of disadvantages and inequalities. For example, gender discrimination often brings about lack of education, ill health and early maternity which impacts onto women’s economic opportunities as well as those of their children thus reinstating poverty over a next generation.

Throughout 2014, governments came together in the structure of a working group (Open Working Group on the post 2015 development agenda) and debated over many months what the next steps towards sustainable development should be like so that no one is left behind in world moving towards shared prosperity and sustainability. The OWG kept its level of ambition quite high and listed in its outcome document listed a number of 17 sustainable development goals as the basis for the future. Out of these goals one refers to gender equality and the empowerment of women which refers to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights. Several goals have a gender component.

Moving forward, on 17-20 February 2015 the co-facilitators of the Post 2015 process put forth a draft Political Declaration for the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The draft document put forward for discussion was somewhat disappointing as it lacked references to SDGs, to human rights and to gender equality and women’s rights as well as references to ending inequalities and transforming the current economic model towards a more sustainable one. The Women’s Major Group (where ASTRA is a member) proposed a set of recommendations and draft for a political declaration through which it introduced once again these key issues. Numerous member states (including a declaration backed by 40 states) spoke about the need to achieve gender equality in the next 15 years as well as about the role of women as active agents development. It seems that the call to acknowledge the contribution of women in sustainable development as well as the need to redress the historical injustice of gender based discrimination is on the minds of many decision makers. Nonetheless it seems that it is not yet clear that gender equality is entangled with more equitable distribution in the fields of economics and environment. This has been the vision of WMG throughout the entire process and remains a key message for the months ahead. Saving women a dignified seat in the post 2015 development agenda means fully acknowledging that women’s rights tie into economics and environmental concerns.

Will governments reach a truly gender sensitive understanding of development? It remains for women’s groups around the world to push for it up until the next zero draft of the Political Declaration to be released by 20th of May.

Written by Irina Costache, A.L.E.G., Romania

More information: NGOs Beyond 2014

Feb 10 2015

Together with several pro-choice gynaecologists, CESI organized a round table discussion “Conscientious objection in medicine” in Zagreb on January 21, 2015 with the intention of mobilizing and creating a pro-choice opposition to neoconservative (Catholic) medical doctors. The Initiative of medical doctors for regulation of conscientious objection in medicine believe that Croatia have failed to comprehensively and effectively regulate the practice of conscientious objection, denying many women reproductive health care services they are legally entitled to receive. The number of gynaecologists invoking conscientious objection in their refusal to perform an abortion is rising and currently nearly 70% of gynaecologists refuse to perform abortions on moral grounds. They reminded the public that some anti-choice doctors will let women die rather than do an abortion, regardless of the law, as has occurred in Ireland, Poland and elsewhere. They presented recommendations to national governments as well as to professional associations, health care institutions,  on how to regulate conscientious objection so as to both respect the practice of conscientious objection while protecting individual's right to reproductive health care.


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